The Look Good Feel Better Blog
Today we bring you the fourth and final installment from our guest blogger Jane Wilkens Michael, host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show…Better Than Before.
For my fourth and final contribution to this wonderful site for this particular series of posts, I wanted to share advice that I hope will inspire readers to look and feel Better Than Before forever more. I am happy to report that I am about to start working on my new book on this very subject. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, my Better Than Before program actually began with cancer survivors. I was personally motivated by a doctor from Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City, the world’s preeminent cancer hospital, who I interviewed very early on in my research. (Note: The Look Good Feel Better program is offered at this hospital.)
In referring to trying to ensure that patients enjoyed a satisfying quality of life long after their protocol was completed, he told me, “Doctors cannot do it alone, and too often patients cannot do it either—it must be a team effort. We don’t just save lives – we want to change them, as well. Once their treatments are finished, it is up to the survivors themselves to take over.” But, as we all know, it takes a lot more than just eating kale, walking around the block and thinking happy thoughts to be a thriving survivor.
Recently, I had the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of a new book from Spry Publishing. Survivorship, Living Well During and After Cancer Survivorship (available for sale April 1, 2014) by a distinguished author, Dr. Barrie Cassileth, PhD, Laurance S. Rockefeller Chair and Chief of the Integrative Medicine department at MSKCC. Conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation treat the tumor, but adjunctive complementary (integrative) therapies such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, guided imagery and self-hypnosis, and yoga, deal with the physical and emotional symptoms.
Dr. Cassileth stresses, though, that bogus “alternative” treatments must be separated from “complementary” therapies which are evidence-based and used to control symptoms and enhance well-being, but never instead of conventional treatment. That being said, here are four tried and true modalities that she mentions in her book, along with her comments:
1) Food: “What you eat matters. It’s a simple, perhaps obvious fact, but one that is too frequently overlooked.” The doctor suggests that survivors continue to focus on maintaining a healthy weight by choosing a diet comprised of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat foods, including dairy. “Replacing carbohydrates and animal fat with vegetables is a smart move as it improves survival in patients with cancer.”
2) Activity: “A flood of recent studies shows that cancer patients who are more physically active tend to live longer after their diagnosis and are at decreased risk of the cancer coming back.” She suggests combining yoga with aerobic exercise and resistance training in order to achieve the greatest benefits for both mind and body.
3) Acupuncture: “Research demonstrates that acupuncture can safely and significantly reduce physical and emotional symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment.” And while it does not treat the cancer itself, it does help to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression, as well as chemotherapy-related and postoperative nausea and vomiting, hot flashes, xerostomia (extreme dry mouth), chronic fatigue, lymphedema, and peripheral neuropathy (nerve-related tingling or lack of feeling in hands or feet).
4) Mind-Body Medicine: “The tools of mind-body medicine, such as meditation, guided imagery, and biofeedback, can reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and other negative thoughts and feelings. In so doing, they can help to prevent serious illnesses from worsening, or at least help you through the disease with as little mental and physical wear and tear as possible. Through practice and discipline, mind-body approaches also increase your ability to manage stress.”
So until we meet again, I leave you with this thought: Being Better Than Before doesn’t mean that we have to change the world. All we need to do is direct a little more positive energy toward improving our lives and our universe today than we did yesterday – in other words, to slowly become Better Than Before!
Today we bring you the third installment from our guest blogger Jane Wilkens Michael, host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show…Better Than Before.
During this holiday season many years ago I discovered my mission – my passion – in life. I found that in helping others to become Better Than Before, I might truly make a difference. And for my family, friends, readers and CBS radio audience, it is the gift that has kept on giving. I am continually inspired whenever they thank me for guiding them, either in person, print or on the air, onward and upward on the Ladder to a Better Quality of life, as part of their journey to looking and feeling Better Than Before.
I find it particularly encouraging, though, when the cancer survivors among them tell me how they are now able to view themselves in a new light, even after all they have endured. “Physically, emotionally and spiritually I may have been through the ringer,” one breast cancer survivor recently shared with me. “But I truly surprised myself that I emerged on the other side a much stronger person.” She told me that she now has a far greater appreciation for life and how simple acts of kindness can be so empowering. “I am also looking through a different lens now and I am grateful for that. Even my scars don’t have a negative connection anymore. They remind me of everything I’ve been through and I’m still here. I no longer focus on how sick and weak I was, but how strong I am now.”
It is important to remember that the road to a better quality of life is paved with the small decisions that we make each day. Lasting benefits rarely come from dramatic changes. Therefore, start by taking baby steps. And find a task that you know you are able to easily accomplish. Even the smallest action you can do to move forward creates the positive momentum that propels you up the Better Than Before ladder.
Think of the Japanese word Kaizen. It is actually made up of two words, “kai” meaning change, and ‘zen’ to make good or make better. Therefore, we should make an effort to continuously improve each day through tiny, incremental changes. Granted, depression, anxiety and stress are always hovering around. It’s how we handle those challenges, however, that makes us succeed — or succumb! Try to focus on what’s positive in your world and not dwell on what could go wrong. I found that most life-altering events, good or bad, can help us progress on the path to where we want to go. So even if they are not what we expected, it’s important to learn from them and become a stronger person because of them. No matter what we are dealt in life, we can find a way to work through it. Never give up.
Start by simply visualizing a twelve- rung ladder. Then familiarize yourself with each of the Lifestyle Disciplines — in other words, the Rungs. Think of a quick tip for each that you have found helpful or would like to try. For example, was there a makeup suggestion from the Look Good Feel Better website? Or a recipe that you could slip into the Creative Rung? For the Healthy Home Rung, try reciting this mantra as soon as you wake up: Every day in every way I am feeling Better Than Before. For the Support Rung, saying “I love you”—whether to your spouse, a friend, your caregiver or your kids—is a bona fide mood lifter and stress reducer. And when you say “thank you,” you increase your optimism and boost your immune system.
So with the New Year rapidly approaching, remember to let go of all anger and resentment; and, most importantly, try to be kind to yourself – after all, you’re the only self you have! Finally, as you begin your climb, never forget three important life lessons: Love deeply, forgive quickly, and above all, try to become just a little Better Than Before.
Our executive director Louanne Roark was recently interviewed by Jane Wilkens Michael, host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show…Better Than Before, on CBS Radio, The Sky. We are thrilled to have Jane as a guest blogger over the next few months. Below is part one of her four part installment on the LGFB blog. Enjoy!
I first came up with the concept of Better Than Before years ago, when I was writing the “Beauty Talk” column for Town & Country Magazine. At that time, I became involved with a cosmetic and fragrance industry initiative called Look Good…Feel Better that I learned helped women cancer patients improve their appearance and self-image by teaching them hands-on beauty techniques. The very valid assumption was that when survivors were able to see themselves in a better light, they recovered quicker, both mentally and physically.
Over the next decade, I saw firsthand the amazing opportunities Look Good Feel Better offered survivors who wanted to improve their quality of life but didn’t know where to begin. I realized that those who were either longtime cancer survivors or were dealing with the debilitating effects of their protocol, knew how unrealistic it was to just think happy thoughts, as many well-meaning loved ones and friends encouraged them to do. Alas, brief surges of positivity were often replaced by fears of recurrence or feelings of hopelessness, uncertainty, isolation, fatigue and even guilt.
Taking inspiration from Look Good Feel Better, after writing a book on sport’s nutrition and, most currently, a health, beauty, and fitness column and hosting a weekly lifestyle program on CBS radio, both with a worldwide audience, I also wanted to reach out to this special group of women. My goal, too, was to help them overcome the physical, emotional, spiritual, social and psychological traumas they confronted on a daily basis.
Finding solutions became my passion. Truth be told, it was an unusual endeavor for me, a confirmed hypochondriac who consults a disease-of- the-day calendar (for the curious, today it’s Hives). But I wanted to present survivors with an easy-to-follow, comprehensive system that encompassed a variety of lifestyle techniques that addressed many of their complaints and concerns.
To that end, I worked with a renowned oncologist as well as a three-time, stage-IV survivor. I spoke not only with doctors and lifestyle specialists but with countless survivors themselves – women and men. I discovered that the majority wanted to get off that emotional roller coaster and reclaim their lives. Yet a surprisingly large number often asked: “What do I do now?”
They had every intention of taking a more active role in their own recovery, but at times were too overwhelmed to do so. Therefore, my challenge was to make everything they learned easy to access, organize and process. And thus Better Than Before was born.
Better Than Before features a unique delivery system—a visualization technique — the highlight of which is a symbolic 12-rung ladder that works to help resolve some of the issues that hold survivors back from achieving the quality of life they so desire but never thought possible. Each “rung” represents a key area — a lifestyle discipline —that can be effortlessly incorporated into anyone’s daily routine. .
Next in this series, I will talk about the twelve rungs, give instructions on how to use them, and include a lifestyle tip for each. In the meantime, though, I would like to share an uplifting message from Geralyn Lucas, author of the best-selling Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy: “I never thought of myself as a brave person,” she told me, “but I had to learn courage during my treatment. I still recall the morning of my mastectomy. I saw the EXIT sign in the hospital and wanted to escape, but I didn’t run away. I got wheeled in, and I think a different person was wheeled out. Courage isn’t something we are born with; it is something that can be discovered during the most terrifying times. Whenever I am faced with anything scary in life, I think about that morning in the O.R. And how, since I did that, I can do anything. I am not afraid anymore.”
“Remember,” she smiled, “just when a caterpillar thinks its life is over, it turns into a butterfly.”
Added another longtime survivor: “Someone once told me I’m still here because I wasn’t afraid of dying. No! I told them. I just wasn’t afraid of living!!”
Cancer survivors are members of a very special “club.” No one can have an appreciation and compassion for life more than someone who has almost lost it. Now is the time to spread your wings like a butterfly, emerge from the cocoon that cancer has put you in, and flutter onward and upward to a quality of life that is Better Than Before.
I’ll be back soon with Part II. Until then….stay well and thrive.
Look Good Feel Better is dedicated to improving the self-esteem and quality of life of people undergoing treatment for cancer.